Posts in category What’s Next?


What's Next?

New Civil Society Zine Up and Ready!

In the second issue of Arseh Sevom’s Civil Society Magazine, called David and Goliath, we asked contributors to tell us what comes after all the unity, after the giant is slain, after the monster is gone? What comes next? It was clearly a difficult question; one without a simple answer. The story of David and Goliath is a story of the (perceived) weak against the powerful, of prevailing against the odds, of bravery and leadership. However modern day Goliaths aren’t so easy to dispel with one little pebble.

While we may not have definitively answered the question, “What comes next,” the articles in this Zine share ideas about human rights, the Arab Anger, Islamicization, leadership, and women’s rights. These all make important contributions to our search for ways forward, while engaging a variety of voices from a range of experiences and locations.

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What's Next?

Letter from the Editor

The term “Arab Spring” has always felt ominous to me. After all, we all know what happened after the short-lived Prague Spring of 1968, which was brutally squashed. As I write this, we read that more than 32 people have been killed in clashes in Cairo’s Tahir Square. Thousands have been arrested. Amnesty is reporting that people in Egypt who dare to express themselves are being arrested and tried in military courts.

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From Monitoring to Building: Questions for South African Peace-Worker Jasmin Nordien

Arseh Sevom spoke with South African activist Jasmin Nordien about her experiences working in civil society organizations. In this post, we focus on her experiences throughout the 1980s, when she worked with the Network of Independent Monitors reporting on state violence and supporting individuals and grassroots organizations. Jasmin shares some of the lessons she learned about the importance of creating networked organizations, the differences between leadership and management, and the need for clarity of purpose. Jasmin tells us, “The one thing I learned after working at NIM was that I no longer wanted to monitor. I wanted to build the kind of society that my children and grandchildren would group up in.”

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What's Next?

A Rebellion of Civil Society

In this interview, Arturo Desimone talks to Tunisian student activist Ghassen Athmni. They discuss the democratic future of Tunisia, non-violence, Islamism, and the (then) coming elections. Athmni states, “This is not a revolution born out of pacifist ideology like the ones you associate pacifism with. There is no moral value of non-violence or ending the evil of all wars. The “bloodless” or “non-violent” character of our revolution is more embedded in the North African and Carthaginian cultures. North Africans do not see viability in violence as a road to power, we always prefer to circumvent violence, we walk around it whenever we can to find a better, more silent way.”

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A letter from an Arab woman to her Iranian friend

In this text given as a speech at The twenty second international conference of the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation (IWSF), Amal Hamidallah-van Hees addresses the fears and hopes of Arab and Islamic women watching the changes in their region. “We are watching with our eyes wide open,” she writes, noting that many lessons were learned by the revolution in Iran. She urges women to engage with politics and Islam. “We will claim our space, even the religious one.”

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Rock the Casbah

Davi Baker, who blogs for the San Francisco Examiner as the SF Muslim, goes back to the ninth century to speculate on the roots of change in the Arab world. In the work of scholar Patricia Crone, he uncovers political thinkers speculating on the best way to organize society without a caliphate. Consensus, participation, violent overthrow, acquiescence, or anarchy? Baker writes, “Essentially they argued that the Caliph must be agreed upon by the entire community, either unanimously or by consensus, and without this no legitimate Caliph could exist. It was widely accepted that Allah did not impose obligations which were impossible to fulfill, so it was reasoned that there was no obligation to establish a legitimate Caliph.”

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“One Has to Do All One Can for Human Rights”

Antonia Bertschinger tells us of her work at the Swiss section of Amnesty International. She tells us how she came to be involved with human rights work. Bertschinger came to the work via her interest in Afghanistan. She studied Persian in university and worked in the Kabul Museum in Switzerland. “I loved working there because it helped me learn so much about Afghanistan. This did some awareness raising for me to learn what it’s like to live in a country where all the rights are violated, especially women’s rights, and which had such a long war, and so many other disasters. She ended up working in the Foreign Ministry in Iran rather than win Afghanistan, however. It was there that she met so many people working to build a better society and for the protection of human rights. Bertschinger asks of her own home in Europe, “How can we ever forget that human rights and the rule of law are the basis of our good life?”

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